By Jackie L. Larson, Edmonton SunDonâ��t mess with Albertaâ��s seniors.Thatâ��s the message from Public Interest Albertaâ��s seniors task force.The lobby group says theyâ��re irate about what they say is a hushed Progressive Conservative government draft concept paper.Noel Somerville, chair of Public Interest Albertaâ��s Seniors Task Force, said the Alberta Health report called â��Moving Continuing CareCentres Forward,â�� is a closed-door business deal pushing a multi-tier system that will widen the gap between those who can afford adequate care and those who canâ��t.â��Now it appears that is precisely what Premier Redfordâ��s government is proposing for Alberta seniors, and I think that is quite shameful. The (paper) is designed to further offload the governmentâ��s costs onto those seniors who require medically necessary services, and to enrich insurance companies and the returns of investor-owned private corporations in the process,â�� Somerville said.A Tory pre-election promise of increasing long-term care spaces by 1,000 per year over the next five years was supported by voters with senior interests at heart. The idea gained popular support with links to reducing emergency room wait times and overcrowding, Somerville said.â��Instead, we find Alberta Health musing about continuing care centres, a very old concept, and consulting with facility operators behind closed doors,â�� he said.A reference within the report to a 2008 strategy is actually tied to efforts that froze the number of long-term beds in the province and began the deregulation of health care costs, he said.While that brought in private, for-profit facility operators and more private bricks-and-mortar, it muddied the distinction between levels of care and who provides what, Somerville said.Carol Wodak is active with PIA, the Continuing Care Watch, and the Seniors Action and Liaison team (SALT). She said the government needs to hear seniorsâ�� concerns.â��Two of the groups I work with have been asking Alison Redford for a meeting to talk with her about elder care for months. And weâ��ve had not even a response to this,â�� Wodak said. â��Iâ��m hoping we can get a dialogue going so that she can live up to those promises about transparency and accountability and consultation.â��And if the government forges ahead without listening to seniors and researchers?â��Youâ��re going to have to sell everything you own to pay for less than adequate care, and God knows what happens when that runs out. Your families are going to be expected to pay…to care for you,â�� Wodak said.In an afternoon press conference, Health Minister Fred Horne said one of the groups in Monday morningâ��s press conference had been consulted in the process.â��I think for people who are asking government to consult more and to work with them prior to making decisions, that this news release today I think is inconsistent with that,â�� Horne said. â��To object to not being consulted as a result of being consulted about changes in policy doesnâ��t make a whole lot of sense to me.â��The report is still in the consultation stages, and work on it will continue until itâ��s right, Horne said.One of the bullet points on the report is funding that follows the patient, and changes with the patientâ��s care need. Itâ��s a shift in the model of care that includes focusing on the resident and the family, not the specific institution or bed, Horne said.â��I think itâ��s in line with what Albertans expect. Itâ��s a paradigm shift, if you will,â�� he said.â��We made this commitment very clear during the election and we mean what we say, when we tell Albertans that weâ��re not asking their mom or dad to fit the system. Weâ��re going to design a system that is able to fit their needs.â��By Jackie L. Larson, Edmonton [email protected]This article was published in the Edmonton Sun on July 16, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Sun website.